Unilingual Francophones don't speak English. Shocking, but true.

The first French-language debate between Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay and challenger Louise Harel took place this morning. (According to La Presse‘s preliminary report, it was “very animated”—as all municipal leaders’ debates have been known to be.) There won’t be an English-language sequel, though. Harel announced earlier this week she’d be passing up the opportunity to express herself in la langue de Mordecai for the perfectly ridiculous reason she doesn’t speak it.

Cue the necessary outrage:

“There’s an obligation for the candidates running for mayor to address the different communities that make up Montreal,” said Marvin Rotrand of rival Union Montreal, incumbent Mayor Gérald Tremblay’s party. […] “This is indicative of an attitude toward anglophones in general – almost as if we’re second-class voters. I mean, she’s written us off, basically.”

And the equally predictable outrage over the outrage (in this case, from the professionally-outraged Richard Martineau):

It’s not up to elected officials nor mayoral candidates to make efforts to be understood by Anglophones: It’s Anglophones who should be integrating into the majority! It’s up to them to get a move on it! The burden of integration is on THEIR SHOULDERS!

All this over a debate that would otherwise have been ignored by the vast majority of Montrealers and amounts to little more than an electoral booby-trap for Harel. Sure, it’d be ideal for Harel to be perfectly bilingual, but she isn’t—and won’t be come November, when Montrealers have to decide whether or not that fact makes her unsuitable for the mayor’s job. In the meantime, the mere option of electing a unilingual Francophone is enough to get everyone competing, once again, to officialize their status as members of “North America’s Most Aggrieved Linguistic Minority.”

It’s a cliché, but plus ça change…

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